Did the Coronavirus Pandemic Kill DVDs for Good?
Streaming continues to beat out legacy, physical media.
Everyone knows that the coronavirus pandemic, and its resulting lockdowns, led to an explosion in the use of streaming media. But was the pandemic good for TV sales? That’s a bit of a more complicated question.
DVDs, and other physical media, are no longer the primary way that Americans consume at-home entertainment. But they remain somewhat viable, as many movie aficionados still prefer to collect physical discs and to buy new editions of popular films. Some customers who remain set in their ways have also prefer to stick with older forms of home entertainment, and while Netflix’s DVD-by-mail business is clearly declining, Redbox remains a viable business.
Back in May, Media Play News reported that in a three-week period early in the pandemic, DVD sales posted year-over-year gains, with revenue rising 13 percent, 15 percent and 15.2 percent, respectively, over the course of three weeks in late April and early May. Blu-ray discs also posted increasing revenue.
However, according to Flat Panels HD, digital movie sales overtook DVD/Blu-ray sales in the first half of 2020, for the first time. And in April, one analyst said streaming growth had come at the expense of physical sales.
“Streaming has been a significant disruptor in the video market, with the likes of Netflix and Amazon Prime Video enticing consumers to invest in their services at the detriment of physical DVD and Blu-ray sales,” Zoe Mills, an analyst at GlobalData, said in a report in April, per Advanced Television. “The Covid-19 pandemic is set to exasperate (sic) this market even further as not only is there a major new entrant to streaming but also with more people spending time at home, investment in these subscription services appears more worthwhile as consumers are able to use them more regularly.”
According to the website The Numbers, the year 2019 had six films notch more than 1 million DVDs sold in the United States- “Aquaman,” “A Star is Born,” “Avengers: Endgame,” “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald,” and “Pokemon: Detective Pikachu.”
The same site says that only two films sold over a million in 2020- “Frozen II” and “Jumanji: The Next Level,” both movies that were released in theaters in late 2019. “Joker” was third, followed by the streaming release “Trolls World Tour” and another early 2020 theatrical release, “Sonic the Hedgehog.” Those 2020 numbers, however, are undated, so they might not be final.
Amazon lists the third season of “Yellowstone” as the current top seller on its DVD chart, followed by the complete series DVD set of “The Office,” a series that recently left Netflix and is now streaming on Peacock. The second and first seasons of “Yellowstone,” respectively, are listed third and fifth.
Stephen Silver, a technology writer for The National Interest, is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.